Debate Squad Scores Top National Ranking

Amanda Young, Staff Writer

The senior debate team of Kevin Deng and Krish Visht claimed a unanimous final-round decision at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Invitation in Union City on January 12. As a result of the victory, the duo is now ranked #1 in the country.

The 3-day tournament included teams from 110 California high schools.

Deng and Visht defeated Javin Pombra and Shirley Cheng from Los Altos High School by defending the claim that “The automobile has had a greater social impact in the U.S. than the computer.”

Last year Visht and his partner aspired to claim the top spot, though it was held throughout the season by a formidable opponent.  Now that he has finally ascended to the #1 ranking, he has realized that it changes the way he approaches competition. “Your motivation changes, because now trying to be number 1, you’re trying to defend your title, which is a little different,” he said.

“The competition was definitely very exciting. The team that was number 1 before- the team that we just took the title from, was a team that we hit on the way to Finals,” said Visht. Once Visht and Deng made the finals, they realized that any one of the remaining squads could end up ranked #1.

Topics for the competitors covered a wide array of subjects. According to Visht, there were both value-based topics, like “New is not always better,” as well as specific points like “The United States federal government should significantly increase infrastructure” or “The UN should intervene in Myanmar.” According to Deng, the team knew beforehand that this tournament would cover a wider range of subjects.

“To prepare, we have practices 2 times per week, so we have a lot of practice rounds and lectures from great coaches. We also do individual prep, where we try to think of topics and try to come up with ideas, pro and con, for such topics,” said Deng. “At this specific tournament, we tried to prep for the different array of topics.”

The ultimate goal for Visht and Deng is to win the National Tournament of Champions in Oregon in the spring.

“It’s an invite-only tournament. Only the top few teams in the nation can debate at that tournament, so it’s a high-reward; if you win the tournament, there are a lot of points involved that could potentially make the difference between the first couple rankings in the nation. We’re really preparing for that one,” said Deng, who added that starting off the season as the #1 squad will certainly help.

“There’s a saying, ‘It’s easy to get there; the challenge is maintaining it.’ Over the next couple tournaments, we want to make sure that we consistently perform well and make sure we get those ranking points and stay at the top of the rankings,” Deng said.

Fellow debate club members Shannon Bonet and Sharon Yuan reached semifinals and sophomore Oliver Golde and senior Samuel Ganten reached double octofinals in Union City as well.

“[Last year], we did fairly well, but this year, I didn’t expect to make it as far as I did, so that was really nice,” said Bonet. She elaborated that the tournament website did not reveal the attending schools, which made it difficult to anticipate the competition. However, she added, “It was a little unexpected or unpredictable for how far you’d get, but it was a nice surprise.”

Of her teammates’ win, Bonet said, “I watched the last round; we were really happy when they won, because it meant that Campo would maintain its number 1 place. Also, we’ve never had a team be number 1, so this is a pretty big milestone just for our club as a whole.”

“We’re just very glad this is happening, being seniors and all,” Visht concluded.